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Preview: France vs. Finland - prediction, team news, lineups
06/09/2021 15:15:29

After dropping yet another two points in World Cup 2022 Qualifying Group D, France desperately seek to return to winning ways on Tuesday (7:45PM, 7 Sept) when Finland pay a visit to Lyon's Groupama Stadium.


The reigning world champions came from behind to rescue a draw with Ukraine last time out, while Finland came out on top in a 1-0 success against Kazakhstan.


Match preview


Injuries had taken their toll on France even before September's international break got underway, but after being forced to watch Kylian Mbappe leave the camp with a calf problem, the size of their task against Ukraine became monumentally greater.


With a couple of questionable changes in tow, France fell behind to Mykola Shaparenko's strike after Anthony Martial had spurned a one-on-one moments before, but the Manchester United man would soon go from zero to hero as his 50th minute effort was bundled over the line by Andriy Pyatov.


Despite the introductions of Moussa Diaby and Karim Benzema, France and their 61% share of possession were forced to make do with a 1-1 draw on the night, three days after they had been held to a stalemate of the same scoreline by Bosnia-Herzegovina on home soil.


Worryingly, it is now five games without a win in all competitions for Les Bleus after their forgettable Euro 2020 exploits, but they still boast a four-point lead at the top of the standings in Group D and cannot be caught by their upcoming opponents and closest challengers just yet.


However, France's shortcomings have now been highlighted twice in a row as Deschamps desperately seeks to get his attackers fit and firing on all cylinders, and Les Bleus will need no reminding which team handed them their most recent defeat on home soil.


Seeking to follow up their Euro 2020 fairytale with a World Cup bow, Finland have proven themselves as a force in Group D and remain unbeaten in the group after claiming their first win over Kazakhstan at the weekend.


Joel Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki both sought to propel their country to victory, but it was the former who struck the game's only goal as Finland moved onto five points in the group following previous draws with Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Markku Kanerva's side may have played two fewer games than third-placed Ukraine, but they sit above their draw specialist counterparts on goal difference as they seek to make the dream of a first-ever appearance at a World Cup Finals become a reality.


It has been seven games in all tournaments since a match involving Finland saw both teams score, but the Huuhkajat are only able to boast two wins from their last 11 competitive and non-competitive fixtures before they seek to humble France on their own turf once more.


Indeed, the Scandinavian outfit claimed an eye-catching 2-0 friendly win over the world champions at the Stade de France in November 2020, but they have lost their other eight clashes against France by an aggregate score of 18-3.


Team News


Mbappe became the fourth French player to withdraw through injury this month following Dayot Upamecano, N'Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso's exits, while the absences of Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez are also being felt.


Nordi Mukiele earned a call-up for the Ukraine game amid Jules Kounde's suspension, but Leo Dubois will aim to hold his place at right-back, while Aurelien Tchouameni - who impressed on his full debut - took a kick to the foot and will need to be assessed.


Fellow international rookie Jordan Veretout could deputise if Tchouameni is not deemed fit to start, while Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane should definitely be recalled after taking their spots on the bench last time out.


As for Finland, Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara missed out against Kazakhstan due to suspension but is back in the fold here, meaning that Rasmus Schuller's spot in the middle may be at risk.


The visitors otherwise have no fresh concerns to work around and have no reason to alter a winning formula, with captain Tim Sparv therefore set for a substitute outing in what will be his 85th game for the national team.


Pukki needs just three more strikes to overtake Jari Litmanen as Finland's highest goalscorer of all time, and the Norwich City man will join Pohjanpalo in a two-man strikeforce once more.


France possible starting lineup:

Lloris; Dubois, Varane, Kimpembe, Digne; Rabiot, Veretout, Pogba; Griezmann; Benzema, Martial


Finland possible starting lineup:

Hradecky; Vaisanen, Arajuuri, O'Shaughnessey; Alho, Valakari, Kamara, Taylor, Uronen; Pohjanpalo, Pukki


We say: France 1-0 Finland


Finland are more than capable of making this a tricky encounter for France, who are struggling for inspiration on the attacking front even more now that Mbappe has left the camp.


In spite of their early positive results and recent success over France, Finland have only scored twice in their last seven matches, and we can envisage Les Bleus returning to winning ways by a narrow margin here.


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